NORTH VANCOUVER, BC –
A former women’s Vancouver Whitecaps and Canadian national youth team coach appeared in court Wednesday for a pre-sentencing report in his sexual assault case.
Bob Birarda pleaded guilty in February to three counts of sexual assault and one count of touching a young person for a sexual purpose. The offenses occurred between 1989 and 2008 and all involved teenage girls Birarda was coaching at the time.
An agreed upon statement of facts described how Birarda took a special interest in certain teenage girls he was coaching. That would eventually escalate to explicit phone calls, private visits and unwanted sexual contact.
In a victim impact statement read aloud in court, a woman identified by the initials MS – who was 17 at the time of the offense – wrote:
“He would often tell me I put a spell on him and made him fall in love with me. Even though I knew I didn’t want that attention, I felt immense shame. I felt no one would believe me, and I was terrified I would get in trouble.”
Another victim, identified by the initials LS, wrote:
“I lived, breathed and dreamed of soccer. These dreams were interrupted by the nightmare of you, that day you made the decision to take advantage of your position as my coach and mentor.”
Former Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack says Birarda would likely still be coaching young girls today if the victims hadn’t spoken out.
“I can’t even say how brave the women that came forward are, how brave they were and the fact that it was so much trauma to have to bring up and relive stuff that obviously is horrific,” said McCormack.
Several of the victims went to police earlier, but charges were only laid after McCormack published an explosive blog post about Birarda in 2019, which triggered a larger investigation.
“Those of us that were trying to come forward for years, both the victims that were criminally impacted by him and those of us that knew the reason why he had been let go from Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps, we need to change the system. Because it’s totally unacceptable the length of time all this has taken,” said McCormack.
For the four counts the 55-year-old has pleaded guilty to, Crown is asking for two years less a day in prison and three years of probation. After Birarda’s defense makes its sentencing submission, the judge says she will reserve her decision for a later date.